“The first murder I witness at North Sound was when Harty Bab get killed. Back then the planters use to call the names of the workers each day before the start of work. Our money would be stopped or the bakkra could take us to the magistrate if was was not present to answer to our names. When our names was called we have to answer, ‘Yes, Massa.’ Now, the names was not called at any set time, like 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. No, mass would just call the names in his own sweet time and we just have to make sure we were there to answer. Sometimes we would be feeling we were early, but then we were late. Other times we’d be thinking we late and then we early.
One morning after the roll call, we have to wait for orders from the planter in charge of the gang. While we were there waiting, Massa Hinds youngest boy, Ralph, starts to imitate his father and goes calling our names. Everybody answer like usual until he gets to Harty Bab. At least she didn’t answer, ‘Yes, Massa.’ Now Massa Hinds was close by, and he hell her that she was marked absent for not answering. He say she disrespect his son and she was not going to get pay for that day. Then he further accuse her of grumbling bad words at him. In the end he so annoyed he decide to lash her with a cart whip. When he try this, she resist him, but that didn’t last for too long for she was over-powered and he beat her mercilessly. Then he forced her in to the estate cellar where he leave her locked up for some days.
When he give the order to release her, she was dead. Rats had bitten off her lips and nose.
Remember that whatever we have in mind to say to mass about this, we have to keep it to ourselves.” (p. 73-74, To Shoot Hard Labour: The Life and Times of Samuel Smith, an Antiguan Workingman 1877-1982
I was inspired to share this excerpt after attending the annual Watch Night ceremonies in recognition of our Emancipation as people of African descent whose ancestors endured the British Empire Atlantic Slave Trade (the BEAST, as the Reparations Support Commission in Antigua and Barbuda, organizers of Watch Night, termed it). Emancipation Day was August 1st 1834 but as the excerpt in this post-Emancipation narrative illustrates, that date did not mark the end of the atrocities. You can read about Watch Night in my series CREATIVE SPACE; you can keep up (if you wish) with the Reparations Support Commission of Antigua and Barbuda via their facebook page; and you can discover more Antiguan and Barbudan books here.
As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.